eros - issue 9

The lives of others

5' to read

Do you ever get on the bus and watch people? When you see a tired, sad or joyful face, do you ever wonder what caused this emotion? That’s what I’m talking about.

Looking out of the window of your house, you notice other people inside their homes. None of them are doing anything exciting. There is no sex or violence but there is something irresistible in being able to see into the private world of ordinary people. It’s a voyeuristic, almost melancholic feeling, where you glean a sort of pleasure in looking at the everyday life of others as a way to detach from your own life. We live in a world framed by windows, we look for inti- macy beyond transparent structures that instead of concealing us, reveal us to everyone, making these unknown people part of our imagination.

I live on the top floor and from my balcony I can see into the windows of other apartments. I see families having dinner, dogs wandering around the li- ving room, people arguing and lovers meeting. I’ve always been fascinated by these dynamics and I’ve always invented wild stories about these people. Every evening, I smoke a cigarette on the balcony, the after-dinner cigarette, the one you enjoy until the very last drag, and punctually at 9 pm, I see an old lady.

Very small and elegantly dressed, she lights a small bedside lamp that emits a yellowish glow and sits down in an old armchair. Sometimes she turns on the TV, sometimes she reads a book but very often she doesn’t do anything at all, she just sits down tiredly and with the sound of music she half closes her eyes with a small smile on her face. I love watching that old lady because she allows me to break away from reality by imagining wonderful things. Sometimes our lives are not enough or so surrounded by chaos that escaping can make us feel more alive. Looking at others and imagining what they are thinking, what they did in the past and what they are planning to do in the future allows us to escape by letting our imagination run wild.

Do you ever get on the bus and watch people? When you see a tired, sad or joyful face, do you ever wonder what caused this emotion? That’s what I’m talking about, I think it’s a mixture of curiosity and fantasy. We have both the desire to get closer to these people, as social animals we naturally want to inte- ract, and the desire to build a fantastic story around them. Maybe that woman smiling on the bus has just found out she’s pregnant, or that young girl who looks sad and melancholy has had her heart broken into a thousand pieces, causing her mouth to curve downwards and her eyes to fill with tears. These are all assumptions. We will never really know what happened or what triggers a certain emotion in a person. But trying to imagine it brings us closer to it by creating a new and different communication network: that of the imagination. In what I imagine, there is always something that I cannot see or perceive and it is precisely this lack that makes my imaginings magical.

The act of looking is an unconscious action that we perform from a very young age. It is through our eyes that we learn and express ourselves and our emotions more easily than with a thousand words. As a child it is the easiest way to get to know the world, the act of looking assumes a billion facets as we are growing.

You can peek, scrutinise, survey, skim, peruse, inspect. One of the strongest emo- tions is mainly conveyed through the eyes. When you love a person, you look at them with different eyes, it is as though they light up. Do you remember the first time you had sex? Or made love, call it what you want. Perhaps embarrassed, you want to turn off the light and do it in the shadows so as not to show your face and body. But what you don’t know, or maybe you do but you ignore it, is that in reality the other person sees everything. The light is weak but the desire to look at each other is so great that our gaze is able to fight the darkness. At first, you can only make out fuzzy shapes, then through touch, the shapes become more and more defined until you see the whole body. Nude, helpless and ready for this experience that is lived not only with the body but also with the eyes. Shame initially keeps our eyes closed, then you might peek or cover your face with your hands and fi- nally comes the look of final enjoyment that makes you feel alive. Sometimes you cry out with emotion, other times you just look intensely as though you wanted to convey your experience to the other. With an exchange of glances, you relive the whole sexual act. With one look, you tell the other person that you want it again. It’s true when they say that the eyes don’t lie. From a young age, it is through our gaze that we know the world, as we grow up, we learn to know ourselves and as adults, a single glance can teach about life.

Sometimes people are ashamed to look or be caught watching, nowadays they are considered “voyeurs” but I believe this is wrong. Observing others is like a social experiment, it is a form of anthropological research that helps us to study our fel- low beings. It is poetic contemplation in which erotic art has made way for sexual science giving space to a new pleasure, the pleasure of knowledge, the pleasure of knowing, of becoming aware of what is happening around us.

In the end, I believe that through the lives of others we imagine who we would like to be, it is merely a projection of ourselves that we see through the windowpane.

This story is featured on C41 ISSUE 9 Eros.